Mixed-Breed Dog Trupanion Breed GuideMixed-Breed Dog Trupanion Breed GuideMixed-Breed Dog Trupanion Breed Guide

Mixed-Breed Dog



Mixed-Breed Dog Highlights

A mixed-breed dog laying in the sand on the beach with the ocean and sunset in the background

  • National Mutt Day (also called National Mixed-Breed Dog Day) is celebrated twice a year in the United States — July 31st and December 2nd.

  • In 2010, Mars Veterinary held a National Mutt Census in the United States. They found the top three most common breeds in the mixed-breed category were 1. German Shepherd, 2. Labrador Retriever, and 3. Chow Chow. These trends reflected popular purebred dog breeds in the country around that time.

  • It is commonly believed that mixed-breed puppies dogs, and some “designer breeds” (like the Doodles), are generally healthier and live longer than their purebred counterparts. This theory is called “hybrid vigor.” The thought is that by mixing different breeds who have varying risks for different genetic disorders, you can get a resulting dog that has an overall lower risk for genetic disorders than the parent breeds.

  • A crossbreed is different than a mixed-breed. A crossbreed is when a puppy is a result of breeding two purebred dogs whose family lines can be traced back through the generations. A mixed-breed puppy is a dog with unknown origins or history. While you can more reliably predict the temperament and traits of a crossbred dog, it is much harder in a mixed-breed dog, especially because of the inability to predict recessive genes.

  • According to a 2015 study by the National Animal Interest Alliance, only 5% of dogs available for adoption from shelters were purebred, meaning 95% of puppies and dogs up for adoption were mixed-breeds or crossbreeds.

Unique Personality

Mixed-Breed Dog illustration

A mixed-breed dog’s personality will be as unique as each individual dog. Some are more reserved and quiet, while others are a chatterbox willing to entertain with their goofy antics for hours. Some mixed-breeds will exhibit protective characteristics and might make excellent guard dogs, while others might be so sociable and love everybody so much that they’d help the thief pack up your valuables (as long as they got a tummy rub as payment). Whether you’re looking for the quiet and mysterious bookworm, the class clown, or the jock, there is a mixed-breed dog with a perfect personality match for you.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

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With Kids

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Might or might not do well with children.

With Other Pets

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Might or might not do well with other animals.

Environment

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When looking to add a mixed-breed dog into your life, their lifestyle needs will depend on their size, energy level, and individual personality. While smaller dogs tend to do better in apartments than bigger dogs, that’s not always the case. Small terrier-type mutts can have loads of energy and be quite barky, while larger sighthound-type dogs can act like giant coach potatoes outside of their daily sprints — or vice versa. Every dog needs companionship, exercise, and mental stimulation, so make sure they will have the opportunity for all of these things before you decide to bring them home.

Average Lifespan
(Range)

Can vary

Average Size
(Range)

It depends!

Also Known As:

  • Mutt

  • Mongrel (popular in the United Kingdom)

  • Heinz 57 dog

  • All-American Dog

  • Natural dogs

History of the Mixed-Breed Dog

A mixed-breed dog outside by a tree looking at the camera

Dogs are believed to have been domesticated about 14,000 years ago, and since they first came into our lives, humans have been selectively breeding them (or at least taking advantage of natural breeding between dogs) to perform certain jobs. This cooperation between species has meant the success of both dogs and humans.

A mixed-breed is defined as a dog from unintentional breeding, with mostly unknown ancestry. And they’ve been around since before there were recognized dog breeds at all. Before humans began intentionally breeding certain dogs with each other to strengthen either physical or behavioral characteristics, the mixed-breed was there. It was from this group of “breedless” dogs that we began picking and choosing certain tendencies and expressions of genes that we molded into recognizable dog breeds with traceable lineages.

There are mixed-breeds of dogs all around the world today. If humans were suddenly to stop intentionally breeding dogs, and the dogs were left to their own devices, within a few generations all puppies and dogs would be considered mixed-breed. Often called “mutts,” they are a favorite of many dog owners and are just as loving and lovable as any other breed of dog.

Mixed-Breed Dog Behavior and Training

Mixed-Breed Dog illustration

Every dog, no matter the breed mix, does best with consistent positive reinforcement training. Many love working for food (who doesn’t?), but also find toys and play with their human very rewarding.

TRAINING MYTH

Many people describe certain dogs as being “stubborn” and hard to train, or a dog that needs a “heavy hand.” Fortunately, scientific studies have shown that, in fact, every dog learns faster and better using positive reinforcement methods (such as clicker training) and by avoiding the use of intimidation, pain, or threat of pain (such as a shock collar or prong collar). These outdated punishment-based methods have been proven to actually damage the human-canine relationship and can increase aggressive responses in dogs — the exact opposite of what we want.

It all comes down to knowing what motivates a dog and using that to your advantage. With positive reinforcement training methods and consistency, every dog is a joy to train and will be an excellent companion. Punishments, whether verbal or physical, not only damage the relationship between a mixed-breed and their owner but also tend not to work in the long run. Often, it creates long-term behavioral issues. By focusing on teaching your dog what to do, rather than on unwanted behaviors, they will be well-behaved sidekicks for life!

Plays Well with Others?

  • Positive, proactive exposure to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and other animals as a young puppy is essential for a dog’s future socialization skills.

TRAINER TIP

Pair meeting new people or animals with high-value training treats or a favorite toy, and keep introductions short and sweet so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

  • Living with or being around children can be tough for a dog of any breed or breed mix. Take care to introduce and socialize them with children as a young puppy to set them up for success and create a positive association. Young children and dogs should always be supervised, and it’s helpful for a dog to have their own “safe space” where they can go when they need some quiet time.

  • Living with other pets in the home can be difficult for a dog of any breed or breed mix. Many dogs can enjoy the companionship of other animals in the home, as long as they have been properly socialized and introduced. However, some breed mixes have a tendency to chase prey more than others, such as hound mixes, spitz or Nordic breed mixes, and herding breed mixes. Make sure to match any potential new mixed-breed with your current pets and have proper and positive introductions.
Graphic - bouncing red ball image

Exercise Requirements

A dog’s size and energy level determine the amount of daily exercise needed, and a mixed-breed will benefit from different types of physical activity beyond just a daily walk. Play is an important way to exercise your dog and build your bond at the same time (not to mention get some training practice in!). Speak with your veterinarian about the appropriate amount of exercise for your dog’s size, energy level, weight, and age. And any time you want to increase the amount of physical exercise you do with your pup (looking at you Couch-to-5K’ers), make sure to have a vet check first and ease them into it.

Speak with your veterinarian about appropriate exercise for a puppy. Until they are full-grown (bone growth plates typically all close by around 1 year of age, depending on the dog’s size – longer for larger breeds), avoid strenuous or repetitive activities like jogging or running, as this can possibly increase their risk of damage to the growing bone and cartilage and cause pain and future joint issues.

VETERINARIAN TIP

While a tired dog might be a good dog, puppy exercise shouldn’t be forced or “pushed” in any way. Follow your puppy’s lead in the amount of activity they are able to do. If they stop and sit down, it’s time for some rest and recovery. In some cases, they might try to “keep up” with an adult dog, so make sure not to let them push too far and over-exercise themselves.

Mental Enrichment Needs

Every dog needs daily mental stimulation and brain games to keep them happy and entertained. Participating in positive reinforcement training for obedience or teaching tricks is a fantastic way to burn extra energy and further build the canine-human bond. Providing natural outlets for instinctual drives, such as digging and chewing, will help prevent destructive chewing or digging in your flower beds.

TRAINER TIP

An easy way to provide consistent mental enrichment is to always feed your dog their regular meals out of an interactive toy or puzzle bowl. Vary what types of bowls they eat their meal from to keep them on their toes — there are even lots of easy DIY dog puzzle options.

Common Behavioral Issues

Due to their love of companionship, many dogs need positive exposure to alone time from a young age to help prevent or minimize any separation anxiety from developing. It’s much easier to prevent than to treat once it’s started. Make alone time a positive and relaxing experience for your dog.

TRAINER TIP

Any time you leave your dog alone, pull out a frozen stuffed Kong or another yummy treat toy. When you return (even if only after thirty seconds), put it away until next time. This will help your dog learn that when you’re gone, awesome stuff happens, and they’ll make a positive association with your absence.

Activities Mixed-Breed Dogs Enjoy

Mixed-Breed puppy illustration

Take stock of what your mixed-breed dog seems to enjoy doing, and choose a dog sport or activity based on their natural talents. Do they follow their nose everywhere? Maybe tracking or search and rescue is for them! Do they love water? Check out dock diving! Here’s a list of different dog-centric activities to check out:

  • Search and Rescue

  • Tracking

  • Nose Work

  • Earth Dog

  • Barn Hunt

  • Canine Musical Freestyle

  • Rally Obedience

  • Agility

  • Flyball

  • Conformation

  • Dock Diving

  • Joring

  • Sled Pulling

  • Carting

  • Schutzhund

  • Disc dog

  • Herding

  • Treibball

  • Parkour

  • Skateboarding/Surfing

Mixed-Breed Dog Coat Type

It depends! A mixed-breed puppy’s coat type will be determined by its parents (or often even further back genetics-wise, since many longhair genes are recessive). Dog coats can range from mostly hairless, to smooth short single-coats, to curly, wiry, or short double-coats, to longer double-coats. The variety of dog fur provides an option for every person’s preference, whether you’re looking for glossy, long and flowing, perfectly coiffed, or extra, extra fluffy!

Shedding Level

It depends!

Grooming Requirements

  • Proper Maintenance (Varies)

No matter the type of coat your mixed-breed has, it’s important to keep it properly maintained. While short and smooth coats don’t require as much daily maintenance as longer double-coated dogs, it’s important to keep every dog’s coat clean of dirt, brushed out to keep it free of mats and maintain airflow over the dog’s skin, and regularly trimmed if needed.

Basic grooming care also includes frequent nail trimming (don’t forget the dewclaws if your mixed-breed has them!), tooth brushing, ear cleaning, and paw pad care.

Best brushes for mixed-breed dogs: pin comb, pin brush, slicker brush, grooming mitt

GROOMING TIP

A puppy as young as 12 weeks can be introduced to professional grooming, whether at a grooming salon or scheduling a mobile groomer to come to your home. You’ll want to make sure the facility is clean, your puppy is kept separate from other dogs, and they are up-to-date on vaccinations and parasite preventatives (be sure to check with your vet first). Caretakers can introduce different grooming tools (such as brushes, nail trimmers, and clippers) and handle them in a positive way as young as 5 weeks old. Owners can continue this proactive exposure training when they bring the puppy home.

Famous Owners of Mixed-Breed Dogs

  • Orlando Bloom (Actor)

  • Anne Hathaway (Actress)

  • Olivia Munn (Actress)

  • Jane Lynch (Actress)

  • Miley Cyrus (Singer)

  • Kellan Lutz (Actor)

  • Ian Somerhalder and Nikki Reed (Actors)

  • Kaley Cuoco (Actress)

  • Kelly Clarkson (Singer/TV Host)

  • Ruby Rose (Model/Actress)

Famous Mixed-Breed Dogs

  • Higgins was a spaniel mix most famous for starring as Benji, but also had big roles in Petticoat Junction, Green Acres, and The Beverly Hillbillies

  • Star of the 1957 film Old Yeller, Spike

  • Laika the space dog became the first animal to orbit the Earth

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for the Mixed-Breed Dog

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for Mixed-Breed Dogs. Every Mixed-Breed Dog is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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Here's what our
dog-loving members say about Trupanion

Trupanion member Kelly

Kelly

Groton, CT

Condition: Sarcoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $18,522.39

"My golden Kelly was young when I found a softball-sized lump on Kelly’s left hind leg. Four weeks straight of radiation, six rounds of chemo and checkups every three months, including x-rays and full blood panel were needed. Because of Trupanion, I didn’t have to address the biggest deciding factor that most people face—can I afford this? I can honestly say Kelly is alive today because of the financial support Trupanion provided."

- Lori

Trupanion member Axl

Axl

Ontario, Canada

Condition: Pneumonia, Hip Dysplasia, Lameness

The Trupanion policy paid: $2,084.01

"At two, our German shepherd Axl was diagnosed with pneumonia. Trupanion took care of all our financial concerns. At four, his hip issues led to pain medications, rehabilitation and rest, which all resulted in improved pain-free movement. I’m so grateful that we chose a plan that not only covers the cost of his treatment but also any physical therapy or rehabilitation he may need."

- Nanette K.

Trupanion member Bella

Bella

Ellijay, GA

Condition: Cushing’s disease, tumor, cruciate rupture

The Trupanion policy paid: $15,283.83

"Bella was treated for Cushing’s disease and a pituitary tumor with radiation therapy. Had we not had insurance for her, the decision for her medical care would have been more difficult, as each treatment was expensive. However, because we have Trupanion, these decisions were easier. Rather, we could focus our attention on her treatment and recovery instead of the financial impact these procedures would have on our family."

- Jason P.

Here's what our dog-loving members say about Trupanion

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